Dads: It’s OK To Put Your Kids Before Your Career

For so long, we’ve heard how working mothers struggle with juggling it all, having it all, and creating that work-life balance. Who ever said that men don’t want the same things?

If you ask a working mother what her top priority is, she would probably tell you that it’s her family. Ask a working dad, and I bet most of them would probably say the same. The funny thing is, we’re never all that surprised when a successful career woman takes a step back to have more time with her children. When a man does it though? Well, it makes national news.

As you may have heard by now, Max Schireson, CEO of the software company Mongo DB, has decided to step down from his top-tier position to be with his family.  While his wife—a successful doctor and professor—has been holding down the fort in California, he’s been running the company in New York. And, he feels, missing out on precious time with his three kids. It’s a job that he loves and the company has grown by leaps and bounds under his leadership. Still, he no longer feels that he can be “all-in,” so he’s taking on a smaller role with more “normal” hours. As he says on his website about stepping down:

“Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am comfortable that I can continue to have a meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.”

How cool is that?

For so long, we’ve heard how working mothers struggle with juggling it all, having it all, and creating that work-life balance. Who ever said that men don’t want the same things? Of course loving fathers want more time with their kids. Of course they want to see their daughter’s play or make it to their son’s first soccer game. They want to help with homework and read a book before bed and sit around the dinner table asking everyone how their day was. Dads want to be there.

But somewhere along the way, we have made working dads feel that it isn’t OK. We’ve made them think that their value as a father is measured in dollar signs, not memories. We’ve made them think that the more you can provide for your family, the better dad you are. And while they work those overnight shifts or stay late at the office or bring paperwork home over the weekends, we’ve made them think that the paycheck will make up for the time they’ve lost with their kids.

Male or female, our priorities as a culture are all out of whack. That’s why we parents go to battle over our lifestyle choices, thinking we have to justify our decisions to work more, work less, or not work at all. Like we owe anyone but our own families an explanation. Yes, a good parent provides for his or her family and makes sure that their needs are met, but he or she shouldn’t have to miss out on so much as a result. You don’t need more, more, more when you have enough.

By stepping down, Schireson is making a bold statement. He’s saying that all of his CEO super-success—and the boatloads of cash that likely came with it—are nowhere near as valuable as the time he has with his family. His kids won’t be young forever. He won’t always have his health. Right now, the best thing he can possibly do for his family, and himself, is give them his time and attention. That’s what he wants and so that’s what he’s doing.

For awhile now, we’ve been telling women to “lean in,” and we sometimes even shame them when they choose to “lean out” or actually “drop out” instead. Still, no one really questions a mother who sacrifices career for her kids. It’s a brave thing that Shireson is doing, not because he’s walking away from a head honcho job—we know his family will be just fine financially—but because he’s talking about his decision so openly. As he told the Today show, “I hope that me telling this story in my position will help others feel more comfortable in making similar choices. And help people in senior leadership roles be more public about it.”

Of course, he’s not directing this statement at men specifically, but I think the message is clear: If you’re a dad, and you can make it work, it’s OK to put your kids before your career. I’m glad that someone is finally saying it.

Jennifer Benjamin is an LA-based freelance writer and editor with over thirteen years of experience writing for national magazines and websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, SELF, Parents Magazine, The Stir and Daily Glow. More important, she’s a Mommy to identical twin boys, as well as an avid cook, a terrible housewife, and a loungewear enthusiast. Find her on Twitter @JennyBenjamin or Facebook.

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